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Robin Hughes • Chequerboard Productions, Australia

Hope is not a rational thing!

- Cineuropa marks the 5th Avignon Forum with interviews with several personalities from the cultural and creative sector

Robin Hughes • Chequerboard Productions, Australia

With its theme 'Culture: Reasons to hope. Imagining and transmitting', from November 15 to 17, the fifth Avignon Forum aims to offer reasons for hope in a time of pessimism.

Every year, the forum organises and supports international meetings in Avignon and Essen with the Avignon-Ruhr Forum. Suggestions made during these discussions between actors in culture, creation industries, economics, and media are then relayed to national and international bodies.

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Cineuropa is marking the event by publishing interviews with several personalities from the cultural and creative sector.

Does culture/creative imagination give you a reason to hope?
Robin Hughes: Hope is not a rational thing, so reasons to hope are sometimes hard to articulate. The feeling, sensation or emotion we experience as hope is, however, remarkably like that strange mixture of yearning and satisfaction that occurs when we are confronted by a great work of art. Perhaps this is why art, whether in the form of music, literature, vision or movement can console in times of trouble and inspire us to find creative solutions to our problems. The world’s current crises, whether economic, political or religious, demand imaginative solutions. Those glimmering moments that stir our humanity and provide the insight and inspiration we need to find the right answers to the puzzles that confront us are dependent on a vigorous cultural climate rich with stimulating creative activity.

Who embodies it the best?
It is impossible to choose one artist or art form to exemplify the power of art to transform lives or even societies. History yields many examples of artists who have changed entrenched ways of thinking. Equally artists who remind us of eternal human values can have a profound effect for good and engender real hope in dark situations. People without any particular outstanding talent engaging in creative activity can strengthen themselves, their families and even their communities by such engagement. I suppose what I am saying here it is the act of creating, that rather mysterious force, that is the foundation of hope more than the form it finally takes.

What would be the personal initiative / work / project that embodies your reason to hope?
Speaking from my own experience I have recently conducted in-depth interviews with six leading Australian artists – an actor, a writer, a choreographer, a composer a visual artist, and a singer – and they all talked about creativity as a process. Engaging in the creative process and appreciating what it yields for us to enjoy and learn from is what gives me hope. Whenever human societies become fixated on making money and pursuing purely material goals they falter and lose direction. The world is coming through a crisis in which a kind of collective greed has made people forget the meaning in their lives. They have lost what the Australian Aborigines would call their “Dreaming”. Without a sense of cultural identity, of values, aspirations and dreams, we may be rich in material goods but we will be miserably unfulfilled as human beings. The hope lies in the growth of institutions and policies which recognise the central importance of intellectual and artistic activity in any society. Institutions like the Forum d’Avignon and other such movements around the world will help inspire ways to foster an environment in which we can all flourish.

How would you like to pass it on to future generations?
Through working in every possible way to enrich the cultural environment in which our children grow. This is partly through what happens in formal educational settings but primarily through working to ensure that everything children engage with – from galleries and museums through television to computer games – is informed by the history of human creative activity and thought. New media can either limit themselves to the lowest common denominator, or recognise that the young human brain has evolved to respond in deep emotional and intellectual ways to whatever it is presented with and its imaginative possibilities should not be underestimated.

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